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$17 Billion for Flood Protection in California: Why?

California plans up to $17 billion in flood protection improvements throughout the state’s floodprone Central Valley, according to Civil Engineering (March, 2012).

The Central Valley is supposed to flood.

The problem is that billions of dollars have been invested in agricultural production on the floodplain, so it needs to be protected…or does it?

It’s ironic when you think about it. The area is prime agricultural land because of thousands of years of nutrient rich soil being deposited by floods.  Now, we continue to invest billions of dollars into stopping this process while simultaneously applying millions of tons of inorganic fertilizers to the soil in an effort to boost production.

The story is not new, but when will we learn?  Think of what $17 billion dollars could do to restore and protect ecosystem services, including healthy productive soils, throughout North America, relying on natural processes. We do.


  1. Jeremy Thomas says:


    We are working directly with DWR analyzing flood control improvements that are compatible with large scale ecosystem restoration in the delta and throughout the central valley, including floodplain storage (i.e. floodplain restoration) and levee setbacks in key locations. After completing a multi-year study on the potential benefits of this, state flood managers are aware of the potential for an eco-focused flood control approach. The problem is that most of the areas where this would be feasible / beneficial from both a flood and ecological perspective are privately owned parcels, and the state is unwilling to push forward with a plan that depends on the acquisition of tens of thousands of acres of private properties. Mostly ag. I have lived (barely) through some crazy meetings between state and private owners in the last year. It is as political as it gets. Call sometime to discuss.

    – Jeremy Thomas

  2. Keith Bowers says:


    Thanks for the background information and for your insight. I know that ecosystem restoration has been a major component of the Bay Delta for some time. Your comment about private property is right on target. In order for ecosystem restoration, and for that matter wildlife connectivity to succeed, it will take a combination of both public and private land. This past year the Wildlands Network, recognizing the importance of private lands in facilitating large landscape conservation and restoration, has developed a private lands initiative, to begin the process of reconnecting wildlife corridors through the Spine of the Continent (Rocky Mountains). This program will rely on voluntary conservation and restoration best management practices, and not land acquisition.

  3. Flood Protection says:

    I think that it is worth it to invest a huge amount of money on ecosystem restoration provided that it is of high quality, will give better protection and will surely withstand against any form of environmental danger. And the most important thing, should stand against the test of time. Anyways, thanks for this post.

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